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Conservatives are openly threatening to tank Johnson’s foreign aid plan

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Mike Johnson’s plan to put a package of separate foreign aid measures on this floor is running into a familiar hurdle — conservative backlash — and it remains unclear whether Democrats would step in to save his efforts.

The extent of the right-flank rebellion is still uncertain, as Republicans and Democrats alike stress they need to see the details of the complicated rule that would govern debate on a bill aiding Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan before making a final decision. However, it’s clear at this point Johnson would need Democratic support to even start debate on the floor.

“Right now, the rule doesn’t pass with Republicans,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.). “I walked out of there and I am usually pretty good at seeing the board. I don’t see the board right now.”

“The rule that was proposed last night at conference will fail,” said conservative Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), who declined to say if he would vote for it.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) became the most prominent GOP lawmaker to voice outright opposition to rule on the foreign aid package on Tuesday. Other conservatives are rumbling about voting against the measure, even as they haven’t committed yet.

Republican leaders counter that resistance from their own ranks is premature because they’re still working out the full details of the proposal. Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), for example, referred to a second rule for debate that “hasn’t even been written.”

Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) indicated no plans to pressure Republicans to vote for the rule on the floor, even as the GOP majority has lost a historic number of the usually party-line votes this Congress.

“We don’t whip rules,” he indicated. “It’s a team vote on the Republican side to advance our agenda.”

The fate of the foreign aid package comes even as a second Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.), voiced support for Greene’s push to oust Johnson from the speakership — despite staunch opposition to her plan from much of the GOP conference.

Asked directly if they could pass a rule for debate on foreign aid along the outlines of what Johnson is proposing, new Rules Chair Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) replied candidly: “TBD.”

As skeptical as conservatives are of the foreign aid plan itself, some appear more open to supporting the rule. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) said in an interview he was “listening” to supporters but that “it’s a little early yet” to know if he would vote to start debate. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said “I don’t believe that this is the right approach” on foreign aid.

One conservative who’s not threatening to tank the rule is Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a member of the powerful Rules panel that’s responsible for setting up floor debate. Norman’s support in committee would at least let the rule get to the floor, though its future is perilous beyondthat.

“I am going to vote for the rule on the committee and I will probably vote for the [rule] on the floor,” Norman said Tuesday. “We have a right to vote on it — I don’t have that right to deny that. On final passage, the devil is in the details.”

If Democrats stepped in to save floor debate on foreign aid, it would be an extraordinary development. The minority party in the House, almost without exception, doesn’t step in to save the agenda of the party in power.

Democrats are staying mum for now, but are cracking open the door to doing so.

“We are in negotiations on exactly what is going to be in this bill from Republicans. Once we see that — once that is finalized — then we are going to move to the process discussion,” said Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.). “But it’s certainly on the table as a possibility.”

So what would it say if Democrats salvaged the foreign aid package?

“One of two things: It says either that we’ve got some people in our party that voted against the rule that are going to continue to push chaos, or leadership has brought a bill to the floor that’s fatally flawed,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) said.

Asked as to which one he thought was at play here, Graves merely smiled: “I’m going to let you choose.”

Nicholas Wu contributed.